• Blight designations are by individual property, which must be a danger to the community’s health and safety.
  • Unfortunately, the prohibition on private transfers contains “intent” language.


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50 State Report Card: Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation since Kelo


Read: Oregon Chapter
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Current Abuses    Bills
  Ballot Measure 39
Sponsored by: citizen initiative
Status: Approved by voters on November 7, 2006.


Oregon is another example of a state in which citizens were so dedicated to making eminent domain reform a reality that they took the matter into their own hands. The Oregon State Legislature did not have a session scheduled for 2006, so a group of passionate citizens organized to get a statute on the ballot that would limit the government’s authority to use eminent domain for private benefit.

Measure 39, the statute proposed in the initiative, forbids government parties to condemn private property used as a residence, business establishment, farm, or forest operation “if at the time of the condemnation the public body intends to convey fee title to all or a portion of the real property, or a lesser interest than fee title, to another private party.” Given the opportunity to vote on it, Oregonians approved the new law by nearly two-to-one. The new statute is particularly important because its language prohibits private-to-private transfers (although the use of “intends” makes that prohibition incomplete since it is always hard for a citizen to prove government intent). The initiative states that a blight designation can be applied only to individual properties that constitute a danger to the health and safety of the community.

Even though Oregon now has valuable statutory limits on the use of eminent domain, they can still be reversed by future acts of the State Legislature. In order to ensure that these reforms are made as strong as possible, this state needs to adopt a constitutional amendment that will safeguard property rights by enshrining a narrow definition of “public use” in its organic law.